The Signs of Our Times Project grew out of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission of the Archdiocese of Brisbane’s response to Pope Francis’ call to a culture of encounter. Then the Office for Justice, Ecology and Peace accepted the invitation to help them to reflect on this experience and to distill wisdom from it. Now the two organisations are partnering to continue the project.
A key process in this project has been reflection on real experiences of encounter in the light of Scripture. As a result, the project can offer resources to help parishes, schools, and groups to ground their action in Scripture.
Another resource for action is Catholic Social Teaching, which itself emerges from the Church’s effort to scrutinise the signs of our times in the light of the Gospels. As the Signs of Our Times website explains, Catholic Social Teaching is not just the robotic application of principles to cases. This project places the living tradition of Catholic Social Teaching in dialogue with both experience and Scripture in order to provide guidance for action. The pastoral themes articulated in the Signs of Our Times theological framework emerge from all of these sources – experience, Scripture, and Catholic Social Teaching.
The five pastoral themes of the theological framework are: love, encounter, dialogue, accompaniment, and inclusion. For each theme there are prayer sheets to help you pray with Scripture, a social media friendly prayer card, a reflection sheet to help you to explore Catholic Social Teaching, and videos sharing stories that relate to the theme. Over time more resources will be added. An invitation to share your stories too will be made at the formal launch of the project in 2022.
Check out the resources already available at www.signstimes.net
At the online soft launch event, Bishop Vincent Long noted that the expression “signs of the times” is drawn from scripture.
“In Matthew’s Gospel (Mt. 16: 1 – 4), the Pharisees and Sadducees test Jesus by asking him for a sign from heaven. However, Jesus rebukes them for not being able to read the signs of the times, for not being able to see and understand what God was doing and saying to them in their own times. The expression was first used in Catholic Social Teaching documents in 1963 in Pope John XXIII’s encyclical Pacem in Terris (On Peace in the World). However, it is more commonly associated with the Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World – Gaudium et Spes. This great document reminds us that the Church does not exist for itself but rather to serve the mission of God in the world. Our worship and spirituality cannot be separated from how we live our lives here and now,” he said.
“Bishops assembled from all over the world affirmed that “the Church has always had the duty of scrutinising the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel… [therefore we must] … recognise and understand the world in which we live, its explanations, its longings, and its often-dramatic characteristics” (GS n 4),” he continued.
In our times, Pope Francis has taken up this theme strongly in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel). Bishop Long reminded us that Francis says, “our task of evangelisation ‘is to make the kingdom of God present in our world’ and that if the social dimension of evangelisation ‘is not properly brought out, there is a constant risk of distorting the authentic and integral meaning of the mission of evangelisation’ (EG n 176)”.
Bishop Long welcomed the project “as a means of going deeper in our appreciation of the Catholic tradition of social teaching and action and engagement in it”.